Stefano Comini clinched his second TCR Series title on Sunday after a bizarre season finale in Macau.
The Swiss driver officially took a win and a fourth place in the two Macau races to overhaul championship rival James Nash, but there was hardly any racing as both rounds were marred by incidents and red flags that led to shortened events.
Comini had gone into Sunday’s races 13 points behind Nash and knew that he needed to deliver two strong results to have any chance of grabbing his second consecutive crown.
But his hopes took a huge boost in an incident-filled qualification race, when Nash hit trouble after a restart for a red flag period that was required to allow medical crews to attend Chi Lun Tang who had crashed in the mountain section.
While Comini pulled clear in front, Nash was chasing Jean Karl Vernay and Tiago Monteiro when he got a bit loose coming through Turn 1.
That allowed the pursuing Dusan Borkovic and Matej Homola to get into his slipstream on the run down to Lisboa.
Borkovic got past cleanly but, as Homola tried to go around the outside of Nash at the tight right hander, the pair clashed.
Homola was pitched into the barriers, forcing the cars behind to stop which blocked the track – bringing out another safety car period.
Nash sustained damage to his left rear wheel and was forced to stop – leaving the way clear for Comini to take a win behind the safety car having not completed a full lap at speed.
However, because the race had not completed 75 percent of its official distance because of the time lost to the red flag period, half points were awarded.
It meant Comini went into the final round of the championship still half a point behind Nash.
Comini did not have an easy time in race two though – as it was Monteiro who made a brilliant getaway to surge past both Leopard Racing Volkswagens on the charge away from the grid.
He held on to his lead, with Comini and Vernay tucked behind him, until the end of lap three when the race was red flagged for a crash at Police after Sunny Wong hit the barriers and bounced back onto the track – blocking the circuit.
Despite the cars being swiftly removed, there was a lengthy delay before a safety car restart for a two-lap sprint.
At the restart, Monteiro was able to keep his lead to take his first Macau win – while behind there were a tense few laps as Vernay made a move on Comini and got up to second place which he held until the chequered flag.
Comini then found himself under huge pressure from Nash’s teammate Pepe Oriola and, well aware that a collision could cost him the crown, conceded third place on the final lap.
But Comini's fourth place was enough to secure him the TCR crown, with Nash ending up eighth overall.
"I am quite happy to win the championship - but it was really difficult work," he explained. "It was possible only because Jean Karl was there to help me: this was the crucial part of the race."
Monteiro was equally as delighted to have taken his first ever Macau win - with the top step of the podium having eluded him in previous outings in F3 and WTCC.
"It is fantastic, really fantastic," he said. "I have been here many times in F3 and WTCC – and I was close to winning a few times.
"Two years ago there were just three corners missing and my power steering broke and I lost everything – so I needed revenge here in Macau. I knew we could do it and when this opportunity came up I accepted it right away.
"I knew the level would be strong and hard, but Macau is Macau – I wanted to enjoy it and if something good was possible we would try and go for it. It feels really good.”